Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Affidavit of Jennifer Haselberger in St. Paul-Minneapolis Abuse Case: "To See an Archbishop . . . Holding His Crosier, Lie to the Faithful in Such a Boldfaced Manner, Was Heartbreaking to Me"

Earlier today, I pointed readers to what I called a chilling documentary just produced by Minnesota NPR about the bold lying of three archbishops covering up abuse in the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. This documentary painstakingly demonstrates that three archbishops of the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis — John Roach, Harry Flynn, and John Nienstedt — lied boldly to the people of God as they covered up sexual abuse of minors by their priests and "participated in a cover-up that pitted the finances and power of the church against the victims who dared to come forward and tell their stories."

Today, an affidavit of whistleblower Jennifer Haselberger, the former Chancellor of Canonical Affairs of the archdiocese who resigned from her position after the archdiocesan powers that be made her life a living hell when she raised critical questions about the cover-up of abuse of children by priests, has been made public. The affidavit is Haselberger's statement in the case of Doe 1 v. Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Diocese of Winona, and Thomas Adamson.

Here's Haselberger's heart-wrenching conclusion to testimony full of other heart-wrenching statements about how leading diocesan officials repeatedly lied to the public as they protected and paid off priests sexually molesting minors:

The final straw for me was when the Archbishop [Nienstedt] himself stated in December of 2013 that he believed that the issue of clergy sexual abuse had been taken care of when he became Archbishop in 2008, and that he was 'surprised as anyone else' when the story broke. To see an Archbishop, who had recently celebrated Mass and was still vested and holding his crosier, lie to the faithful in such a boldfaced manner, was heartbreaking to me. That was really when I abandoned hope that this situation could be resolved by the present administration, by which I mean not only the Archbishop, but everyone else who has been involved in this ongoing debacle. Following my resignation, I often explained to people how difficult it was to be in a place where you were constantly disappointed by the people around you. That disappointment was only intensified when I witnessed the decisions taken by those 'in the know' in the weeks and months that followed, who apparently were willing to sacrifice their integrity, and their judgment, in order to be seen as 'close' to those in power.

As Jesse Marx notes, Haselberger's affidavit is "the closest look yet at the inner workings of the archdiocese and portrays a devout Catholic who for seven years was ignored, marginalized and bullied for trying to warn her superiors about sexually deviant men." And as Jean Hopfensperger states

Haselberger described the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis as a place where child abusers were given repeated opportunities to remain in the priesthood, where "monitoring" was lax or nonexistent, and where investigations into abuse complaints often missed key interviews and resulted in findings that favored priests. 
Financial deals were frequently cut with priests who agreed to step down from ministry, she said. Some, however, tried to come back — even after serving jail time. 
The archdiocese, she wrote, had a "cavalier attitude toward the safety of other people's children."

As I noted earlier today (see the first link in the posting), Patricia Miller's book Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church (Berkeley: Univ. of CA Press, 2014) cites Catholic theologian Mary Hunt, who points out that for many years, lay Catholics and Catholic theologians seeking to engage the Catholic hierarchy in honest, meaningful discussion of the moral complexity of issues like abortion, contraception, and homosexuality assumed we were dealing with people of good will who just weren't quite getting the point — who just weren't quite understanding the importance of honest, meaningful public dialogue about controversial moral issues in the Catholic context.

As Hunt says, what we didn't know, most of us, as we struggled along trying to obtain a fair hearing for various ethical and theological viewpoints in the Catholic tradition, was that we were dealing with criminal "people participating in criminal behavior." Hunt states flatly that "[t]he hierarchy blew issues like abortion out of proportion as cover for their long-term duplicity on issues like pedophilia."

Her point could not be more powerful, I think, when one applies it to the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis as the archdiocese now appears in the light of Jennifer Haselberger's testimony. And it's these criminals who expect not only Catholics but all Americans of any and no faith to dance to their tune as they war against women's right to contraceptive coverage in healthcare plans? Or who, as with Archbishop Nienstedt, have repeatedly urged their Catholic flocks to declare holy war against their fellow human beings who happen to be gay?


The photograph of Jennifer Haselberger is from Progressive Catholic Voice.

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